Cultivating a culture of genius in Black youth

African American Student Celebrates Graduation

jegnaBlack children have been a major topic of many political conversations within the past two years. Usually, these conversations employ a variety of coded language. We have heard such terms as “at-risk youth,” “urban,” “inner city” and “thugs.” However, one term seldom heard is “genius.” It almost seems odd saying the phrase “Black genius” or “genius Black child.”

It is important that we begin to change the narrative of how our children are identified. This is important not only to shift the beliefs of others, but also for the self-esteem, identity and vision of ourselves.

The Black community has countless sources of traumatic influence. We are criticized and criminalized for nearly everything we do as a culture. Due to this, it is very troubling and stressful for Black people to maintain a solid level of pride.

What is genius?

The term genius is not often utilized to describe Black youth. The term is often associated with individuals we place on an iconic status. As a society, we associate genius with individuals who achieve great success. However, genius is something that we all possess.

Unfortunately, our inherent genius is not always utilized within most of us. A constructive definition of genius is a state of intelligence that is a summation of your actions, talents, and skills. Based on this definition, everyone can utilize genius if we choose to do so.


Every Black child has a set of skills. If not, then every Black child has the capacity to develop and can achieve a level of skills to be successful in life. These skills consist of hard work (discipline), tactics, an understanding of context, access and networks.

One of the most significant disadvantages that many Black youths face is a limited exposure to situations that test and develop their abilities. Since they do not have the exposure, it is difficult to recognize how they fit and can contribute to their community and the world at large. This exposure can be facilitated through networks, which many Black youths also do not have.


Talent is something that cannot be taught or coached. It is usually something we all have. However, most people do not discover their talents because of fear, lack of information, and limited abilities to take a risk.

Talents consist of an individual’s unfair advantage, where they shine (stand out) more than others and display their distinct abilities. Everyone is good at something. Figuring out what that “something” is can be the hard part, especially for Black youths who are often at a disadvantage due to lack of resources.


Actions are the greatest truth when we do expose that which we are, what we believe, and our true purposes. The actions of individuals can be influenced by multiple factors. One of the main factors is the ethnic culture in which one grows up.

In essence, the actions of Black youths are significant to explain where and what Black culture is. Actions consist of know-how, consistency, and starting (taking a risk).

What we know is influenced by what we learn within our culture. Our consistency is directly correlated to our level of boundaries and discipline. Taking risks is related to the amount of resources, support, and ambition we provide as a community. Black youths’ actions are directly impacted by the dominant culture in which they must function.

Every Black child is an artist and an engineer. They have an innate ability to create. Also, they have the capacity to build an impressive lifestyle and legacy. However, without proper tools and guidance, what we see is wasted genius.

This is why it is significant for us as individuals who are concerned with the Black community to invest in our youth. Our children are the future of our community. We must make a conscious effort to be the stakeholders in the development in our children.

If we do not, others will do so for their benefit. We have seen this with such institutional systems as the school-to-prison pipeline. We are charged with the responsibility to provide an opportunity for our children to flourish.